Sparks of Change brings together select groups of Jewish and Arab high school students, teachers, and teachers-in-training from Israel to travel together to the United States or Canada. In North America, the group participates in a transformative program including encounters with North American high school students (Jewish and non-Jewish), home hospitality, and touring. The delegation aims to promote coexistence among the Israeli participants and to enable North American high school students to learn about the complexity and potential of life in Israel.
Half an Hour Away but Different Worlds
Past delegations included neighboring high schools in the Galilee region. Although the two high schools are less than a half-hour drive from one another, the participants had never met students from the other school before. Before the delegation, the Arab participants had minimal to no contact with Jews, and so too the Jews with the Arabs.
A Trip of a Lifetime
During the trip, the delegation participates in intensive encounters with students from Jewish and non-Jewish schools in the United States or Canada, exposing them to different aspects of North American society. The Israelis enjoy home hospitality and spend time at the schools. They engage in dialogue with the North American students about what it is like to live in Israel as a teenager, and what their experiences are of the Jewish-Arab conflict.
In addition, the group enjoys touring in cities such as New York City, Toronto, and Washington DC. In the words of the participants: “Every day was a new and different highlight and every day was special… I am happy that we were able to get the most out of everything;” and, “Whatever I write wouldn’t describe how amazing the trip was for me… It’s a trip of a lifetime.”
In their program evaluations, participants in the delegation reported that they learned about new cultures and to accept people who are different than them. As one participant explained: “Kids started to get to know the others and started to accept them even though they are different.” Not only did the Jews and Arabs from Israel get to know one another and their cultures, but they also got to know North American teens and Jewish communities better. One participant summed up the impact of the program: “It definitely made me a better person.”
Participants strengthened their commitment to coexistence. They described their insights: “It deepened my understanding that we and the next generation must work harder in order to make a change. I am certainly motivated to contribute as much as I can.” Another participant explained: “After every discussion, I understood more and more that despite the gaps and disagreements, it is very important that we cooperate and this will benefit both sides. Therefore, after this journey, I support coexistence to a much greater extent, and understand its importance in the complex reality that exists.”
Participants plan on bringing these insights back to their communities and acting on them. One participant wrote, “I want to start with my friends and try to get them to see what I see now and who knows maybe it’ll lead to a bigger group of people seeing coexistence as an important thing as I do.” Teachers who participated wrote about sharing their insights from the project with their students, and their commitment to working on similar projects in the future that bring together Jewish and Arab high school students.
Sparks of Change Foundation
This program was made possible by the Sparks of Change Foundation. The Foundation was established in honor of Daniel Joseph Siegel, a young man who died from a brain tumor in November 2010. Daniel always strived to be a ‘changer,’ a person whose actions would make a difference to others. The Foundation honors his life by supporting programs that are involved in changing communities and creating a better world.
For a newspaper article on the 2017 delegation, see: